The following excerpt was taken from Walter Short’s comprehensive study on the Islamic Scripture:
THE QUR’AN’S MANUSCRIPT EVIDENCE:
A manuscript analysis of the Qur’an does present us with unique problems not encountered with the Bible. While we can find multiple manuscripts for the Bible written 700-900 years earlier, at a time when durable paper was not even used, the manuscripts for the Qur’an within the century in which it was purported to have been compiled, the seventh century, simply do not exist. Prior to 750 A.D. (thus for 100 years after Muhammad’s death) we have no verifiable Muslim documents which can give us a window into this formative period of Islam (Wansbrough 1978:58-59). In fact the primary sources which we possess are from 150-300 years after the events which they describe, and therefore are quite distant from those events (Nevo 1994:108; Wansbrough 1978:119; Crone 1987:204). For that reason they are, for all practical purposes, secondary sources, as they rely on other material, much of which no longer exists. We simply do not have any “account from the Islamic’ community during the [initial] 150 years or so, between the first Arab conquests [the early 7th century] and the appearance, with the sira-maghazi narratives, of the earliest Islamic literature” [the late 8th century] (Wansbrough 1978:119).
We should expect to find, in those intervening 150 years, at least remnants of evidence for the development of the old Arab religion towards Islam (i.e. Muslim traditions); yet we find nothing (Nevo 1994:108; Crone 1980:5-8). The documentary evidence at our disposal, prior to 750 A.D. “consists almost entirely of rather dubious citations in later compilations” (Humphreys 1991:80). Consequently, we have no reliable proof that the later Muslim traditions speak truly of the life of Muhammad, or even of the Qur’an (Schacht 1949:143-154). In fact we have absolutely no evidence for the original Qur’anic text (Schimmel 1984:4). Nor do we have any of the alleged four copies which were made of this recension and sent to Mecca, Medina, Basra and Damascus (see Gilchrist’s arguments in his book Jam’ al-Qur’an, 1989, pp. 140-154, as well as Ling’s & Safadi’s The Qur’an 1976, pp. 11-17).
Even if these copies had somehow disintegrated with age (as some Muslims now allege), there would surely be some fragments of the documents which we could refer to. By the end of the seventh century Islam had expanded from Spain in the west to India in the east. The Qur’an (according to tradition) was the centrepiece of their faith. Certainly within that enormous sphere of influence there would be some Qur’anic documents or manuscripts which still exist till this day. Yet, there is nothing anywhere from that period at all.
With the enormous number of manuscripts available for the Christian scriptures, all compiled long before the time Muhammad was born, it is incredible that Islam cannot provide a single corroborated manuscript of their most holy book from even within a century of their founder’s birth.
(1) Sammarkand and Topkapi MSS; Kufic and Ma’il Scripts:
In response, Muslims contend that they do have a number of these “Uthmanic recensions,” these original copies from the seventh century, still in their possession. There are two documents which do hold some credibility, and to which many Muslims refer. These are the Samarkand Manuscript, which is located in the Tashkent library, Uzbekistan (in the southern part of the former Soviet Union), and the Topkapi Manuscript, which can be found in the Topkapi Museum, in Istanbul, Turkey.
These two documents are indeed old, and there has been ample etymological analysis done on them by scriptologists, as well as experts in Arabic calligraphy to warrant their discussion. What most Muslims do not realize is that these two manuscripts are written in the Kufic Script, a script which according to modern Qur’anic manuscript experts, such as Martin Lings and Yasin Hamid Safadi, did not appear until late into the eighth century, and was not in use at all in Mecca and Medina in the seventh century (Lings & Safadi 1976:12-13,17; Gilchrist 1989:145-146; 152-153).
The reasons for this are quite simple. Consider: The Kufic script, properly known as al-Khatt al-Kufi, derives its name from the city of Kufa in Iraq (Lings & Safadi 1976:17). It would be rather odd for this script to have been adopted as the official script for the “mother of all books” as it is a script which had its origins in a city that had only been conquered by the Arabs a mere 10-14 years earlier.
It is important to note that the city of Kufa, which is in present day Iraq, was a city which would have been Sassanid or Persian before that time (637-8 A.D.). Thus, while Arabic would have been known there, it would not have been the predominant language, let alone the predominant script until much later.
BTW: Welcome Joseph, glad to see u back